Lewis, Teddy

Mr. Tom Edward (Teddy) Lewis, was the youngest of five children born to Mr. Tom Lewis, who was a boot and shoe manufacturer and owned a shop in Taff Street, Pontypridd. 

He was born in a farm between Church Village and Llantwit Fardre, but his family later moved to Pontypridd. As a youngster Ted was a great swimmer and used to dive off the Berw Bridge into the River Taff at the famous Berw Pool. 

He grew up to be the ‘Mr. Sportsman’ of the town of Pontypridd and was influential in the Pontypridd Rugby Club, either as an advisor or an officer, and was president of the club in seasons 1911-12, 12-13, 13-14, and patron 1919-20 & 20-21. Teddy was also Vice-president of the Welsh Rugby Union for ten years. He held the position of secretary of the Glamorgan Rugby League for twenty years, and was president of the Pontypridd Cricket Club.

T. E. Lewis was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, and after leaving school he went to sea. After an adventurous period of gun-running during the south American Civil War, when he was shipwrecked for weeks when on a Banana Boat which sunk, Teddy returned to Pontypridd, but never ate a banana for the rest of his life! 

From the earliest days at school, however, it was sport that attracted him, and his administrative activities, business acumen, and conscientious adherence to principles made him popular. He abhorred coursing and any sort of sport where ‘both sides did not have an equal chance,’ but there were few sports in which he did not play an active part. As a manager of boxers, handicapper in pedestrianism, and rugby football administrator, he was considered to be incomparable, but always served his native country first.

However, it is in connection with the Taff Vale Park, and the Welsh Powderhall that everyone, even today, remember his name with affection. When Taff Vale Park came up for sale in 1900, Teddy became the secretary of the Athletic Syndicate that bought the Taff Vale part from James Roberts. 
It was he who probably suggested a Welsh Powderhall Sprint, and he fired the starting pistol at every Powderhall for the 27 years of its promotion. He was the official starter for the South Wales Athletics Board, and no important sports meeting was complete without Ted and his famous starting pistols., which would often startle unwary people with their loud bang. 
In all, Teddy used four pistols, three of which were mid 19th century muzzle loading, using black powder and pad, fired by a percussion cap, while the fourth was a late 19th century sporting pistol, possibly of European manufacture. The ‘Blunderbuss’ was used mainly to start the longer races, and it was reported that one in a mile race a man on scratch was hit on the backside by the pad from the gun, obtaining a flying start! A cartoon of this event was drawn by J. C. Walker of the ‘Western Mail.’

In 1930, along with Tom Coggins, Teddy decided to move the Welsh Powderhall to Caerphilly. Teddy stated that serious financial losses had been incurred by keeping it at Pontypridd, and although he was Pontypridd born and bred, sentiment alone could not see the continuation of the race at Taff Vale Park. Other events were charged £20 (by Mr. Brooks) for the hire of the stadium, compared to £75 charged to the Welsh Powderhall promoters.

Boxing was also one of his great loves. He was a talented trainer and organized boxing matches called "Assault at Arms," and annual athletic meetings in aid of the rugby club. He became founder and manager of the Millfield Boxing Club, who staged boxing nights at a booth at the People’s Park, Mill Street, and later on the top floor of the new Millfield Hotel. He took on a young boxer named Jimmy Wilde, who under Teddy Lewis’s guidance would become a boxing legend, and was soon seven-stone champion of Wales, British Champion, and World champion. 

In his 1938 autobiography Jimmy wrote:

"I shall never forget how Teddy Lewis looked that first night. Short, with grey hair which afterwards turned pure white; a very fresh pink and white skin, a pair of pince-nez spectacles that made him look more like a schoolmaster than a boxing club manager. He was a little deaf, even at that time, and later grey stone deaf. It is impossible to estimate the value of Ted’s help, patience and advice, and what is more remarkable is that at the beginning he did it for nothing. Yes, Ted was always cool, detached and methodical, and forced me to take on at least one of his habits, always looking after the job in hand."

Ted’s silver hair was famous in the boxing world, almost as famous as his reputation, for once Ted gave his word, he always kept it, and that is why Jimmy Wilde seldom fought under contract. When he launched his famous trio of Percy Jones, Jimmy Wilde and Llew Edwards on the boxing world, he was imbued with the idea of carrying on the traditions established by the late Tom Thomas, Freddie Welsh and Jim Driscoll. Jones, Wilde and Edwards all won Lonsdale belts, and Mr. Lewis definitely established a niche in the history of the National Sporting Club (the famous boxing club in London) with the ‘Welsh night.’
When Frank Moody won the British Cruiser-weight title in 1928, it was the fourth Lonsdale belt brought through Teddy Lewis. He managed the boxing affairs of Jimmy Wilde until he retired after the defeat by Pancho Villa. The purse paid to Wilde - £13,000 - was a record for a flyweight championship of the world, and Mr. Lewis made boxing history when he arranged that Mrs. Wilde should receive £5,000 of this sum for "allowing her husband to box!"

Teddy Lewis also held vice-presidencies of the Pontypridd Swimming Club, Pontypridd Kennel Club, and the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association, and was a generous supporter of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club. 
His main residences in Pontypridd were in Penuel Lane, opposite the market entrance, and in Lan Park road, at No.2; and later at Dan-y-coed. He spent his last few days at Hillside, Lan Park Road, and died age 70 at his sons (Ted Junior) home on Monday, April 17th 1933, having had a seizure on the previous Wednesday. He is buried in an unmarked grave at Glyntaff Cemetery. One national newspaper wrote at the time of his death:

"Wherever sportsmen gathered this week expressions of regret at the death of Teddy Lewis, Pontypridd, have been heard. He was more than a sportsman to them; he was a ‘character’ as outstanding as could possibly be imagined. The trick he maneuvered to prevent a gang of toughs getting their hands on some of Jimmy Wilde’s purse-money at once gives an insight into his shrewdness and resource. Coming away from Olympia, Teddy had with him £2,000 in six banknotes - part of his purse. He was followed by the ‘gang,’ who booked rooms adjoining his own in the hotel. He knew from the experience of friends how formidable they were, and he was in despair about the cash. Before retiring he took the daring step of placing the banknotes in his shoes before depositing them ouside his bedroom door. Shortly after midnight the gang entered and ransacked every corner of the room. Happily they left Teddy alone, but he lay with fear and trembling underneath his bedclothes. Finally they left."

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